Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): What you need to do

PPE - March 11, 2013 - 0 comments

The law requires that personal protective equipment provided for use at work must be made to an appropriate standard and must be CE marked. The key issues are:

  • Personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Respiratory protective equipment (RPE)
  • Gases and vapours

What you need to know…

Personal protective equipment (PPE)  includes:

  • coveralls;
  • eye protection;
  • footwear;
  • gloves;
  • hearing protection;
  • respiratory protective equipment (RPE);
  • safety helmets;
  • wet weather clothing.

Your health and safety and that of your workers can depend on it.

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Personal protective equipment  (PPE)

When selecting PPE, remember:

  • you need to consider and introduce other means  of protection first. Provide PPE only as a last resort after taking all  other reasonably practicable measures;
  • engineering controls provide long-term solutions  and are often cheaper than providing, replacing, maintaining and storing PPE;
  • controls at source protect all workers in the  area, while PPE only protects the  wearer;
  • it is essential to involve your workers in the  selection process, as ­they often have detailed knowledge of the way things  work or the way they do tasks, which can help you.

Also make sure that PPE:

  • is effective and gives adequate protection  against the hazards in the workplace;
  • is suitable and matches the wearer, the task and  the working environment, so it does not get in the way of the job being done or  cause any discomfort;
  • does not introduce any additional risks, eg  limits visibility;
  • is CE marked to confirm that it has been made to  an appropriate standard;
  • is compatible with any other PPE that has to be worn. Safety spectacles may  interfere with the fit of some respirators.

CE mark



To use the equipment effectively, workers need suitable  information, instruction and training.

Make sure all equipment is checked before use and cleaned,  maintained and stored in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Remember that employers are not permitted to charge their  employees for personal protective equipment provided for use only at work.

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Respiratory protective  equipment (RPE)

Suitable RPE can be used to provide protection against two  broad types of substance:

  • dusts, fibres, mists, fumes and micro-­organisms  (bioaerosols);
  • gases and vapours.

Respirators come in various forms including disposable  half-mask respirators, full-face mask respirators with filters, or powered  respirators.

A well-fitting and well-fitted disposable respirator  conforming to BS EN 149:2001 will protect against dusts, fibres etc. A powered  helmet to BS EN 12941:1999 with the correct filter may be more appropriate in  many work situations if a disposable respirator is unsuitable, eg for people  with beards.

RPE with a high level of protection is necessary for very  dusty jobs or where there is a high risk of occupational asthma or farmer’s lung,  eg cleaning grain stores or poultry houses.

Face-fit testing (as described in HSG53) must be done for all  respirators that rely on a good face seal to be effective, i.e. disposable, half-  and full-face masks. This ensures the respirator can fit properly, but the fit  still needs to be checked before each use. If in doubt, ask advice from a  reputable supplier or manufacturer.

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Gases and vapours

This website cannot give accurate guidance to allow you to  select protection against gases and vapours. You need to get information about:

  • the substances present;
  • the work to be done;
  • the environmental conditions;
  • how long the respirator is to be worn;
  • and then seek advice from a competent supplier or  manufacturer.

This is because, among other reasons, gas and vapour filters  rely on adsorbing the contaminant and different adsorbents (and filters) are  used for different gases. It is also difficult to know when filters need  changing – when the adsorbent is saturated the gas will pass through the  filter.

Respirators relying on filtration for their efficiency should never be used to provide protection  in oxygen-deficient atmospheres.

See Workplace safety and welfare[1]  for advice on work in  confined spaces. RPE with an independent air supply, eg breathing apparatus,  will be necessary for such work.

Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

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